[author chat + giveaway] A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet by Astronaut Clayton Anderson and Scott Brundage

#56 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Clayton Anderson in the Destiny module of the International Space Station


“T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, main engine start, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and LIFT OFF!”

B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing!
When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.
There is smoke — and vibration — as we launch into space.
And we do it with flair, with excitement and grace!


On June 8, 2007, Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson launched to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. As Expedition 15 Flight Engineer and Science Officer aboard the ISS for five months, he performed three space walks. He returned to the ISS in 2010 on a resupply mission, and in 2013 retired from NASA after 30 years of service — 15 as an engineer and 15 as an astronaut.

These days, Clay is an author, motivational speaker, and part-time Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University. In March 2018 he published his first children’s book, A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet, illustrated by Scott Brundage (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018).

In this entertaining and informative picture book, we are invited to fly with Clay on a fun, out-of-this-world A to Z tour that draws on his wealth of firsthand knowledge and unique insight.

From Astronaut and Blast-off, to Galaxy and Meteors, right through to Rendezvous and Zulu time, the short lively poems paired with fascinating info sidebars will appeal to spaceniks and science buffs of all ages, stirring their wanderlust and inspiring them to dig a little deeper.

A is for Astronaut,
the bravest of souls.
They fly into space
and assume many roles.

They pilot, they spacewalk,
and they even cut hair.
But seeing Earth from our orbit —
that will cause them to stare!

I enjoyed learning about the science of space flight (helmets, space suits, sources of energy, types of landings and data collected, the importance of planning), as well as a little bit about the history of NASA, and even some astronomy (Milky Way, quasars, cosmic X-rays). Ask me sometime about thrust, wind, inclination and jettisons. Impressed? 🙂



Wonder of wonders, I never imagined I’d have the honor one day of interviewing a genuine-for-real astronaut. I love Clay’s candid and generous answers. Smart, hardworking, resourceful, persistent, and born with the spirit of adventure, he may belong to an elite group of brave space explorers, but he’s very much down to earth.

Guess what we talked about? 🙂



Clayton Anderson is the first and only astronaut selected from the state of Nebraska. He currently lives in League City, Texas


What are some of the most common misconceptions people might have about what and how astronauts eat in space?

First of all, regarding what we eat, our food doesn’t come in tubes; not usually anyway! Many folks also think that it’s not appetizing, that it is boring and bland. These assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

How we eat is sometimes misunderstood as well. As a space flier, I NEVER used a utensil other than a spoon, and playing with your food is allowed. As a matter of fact, it’s highly encouraged!

What would surprise us the most?

Perhaps that the cuisine is quite tasty and –these days—sports an international flavor. We dine on foods from Russia, America, Japan, France, Italy and even India. In fact, some of it is prepared (or at least designed and envisioned) by famous chefs from around the world.

How did weightlessness affect your nutritional needs, appetite, and digestion?

Being weightless for the first time did not affect my appetite or my digestion in the least. Upon arriving in space for the first time, I was starving, so I downed a smoke turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich on wheat bread (hot mustard as the condiment) and some carrot sticks (pre-packed by the lovely ladies in Astronaut Crew Quarters at the Kennedy Space Center).

Nutritionally, the good folks in the food lab on the ground in Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, ensured that our calorie counts were appropriate for each of us individually. During BOTH of my space missions –152 and 15 days—I would lose 12 pounds. I’m not much of a scientist, but this told me that when I go into space, my body rids itself of enough (water) weight for adaptation that equals about 12 pounds. And, after all, the first three letters of space spell SPA!

Is chewing and swallowing different?

Not for me. All felt totally earth-like.

Was your sense of taste or smell affected?

The lack of gravity in space leads to additional fluids moving into your head. The resulting “stuffy nose and sinus congestion” sometimes causes astronauts to have issues with their senses of smell and taste. I did not experience much of that. My spacefaring colleagues tended to add a lot of condiment sauces (especially the spicy ones), but to me, the food tasted just fine right “out of the package!” Some commanders also refused to let their crew members select seafood gumbo as one of their menu options. While I found it quite tasty, some commanders couldn’t stand the smell, so that sense must not be affected too much.

What were some of the foods you enjoyed the most aboard the International Space Station?

One of my favorite things to eat was a meatloaf sandwich. Placing the “slab” of meat between two floating flour tortillas was not only tasty, it was fun, and made for an excellent photo!

Do you remember the very first and last things you ate there?

Now that you mention it, aside from the aforementioned turkey sandwich, I cannot remember my last meal. I do however, remember my last drinks aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Having to “fluid load” to restore our vestibular system prior to re-entering the earth’s pull of gravity, I would down chicken consume, fruit punch (with artificial sweetener), grape drink (again artificially sweetened), and water with salt tablets. Totaling 64 fluid ounces in the end, I remember this extremely well as nearly all of this liquid ended up in a “puke bag” once I returned to earth!

Could you briefly describe what the ISS galley was like, and what procedure you followed for a typical meal?

Today, the space station has two galleys. Similar, one is in the Russian segment Zvezda module, and one is in the U. S. Node 1. Essentially, each galley contains a re-hydration system (to add water to the food packets that need it), and a small table. Food containers are also present in each location, stowed away until needed.

With respect to preparing a meal, it was usually a team event, with no formal procedures. Packets or cans of food were placed into their respective food warmers (we did it essentially at random, i.e., no specific foods were prepped, unless a crew member specifically requested something) for a 5-minute heating cycle. Side dishes often required re-hydration, but we did that on our own, making our personal selections as our moods dictated. Drinks were also a personal preference and required the hydration station to fill our respective drink bags (tea, coffee, fruit drinks, soups, etc.).

Astronauts (and cosmonauts) tend to open a single package, and consume its entire contents, versus having a plate with assorted offerings to choose from as we humans might enjoy in a restaurant here on earth.

Are there any foods banned in space?

Not really, except for the occasional seafood gumbo!

When you finally returned to earth after being in space for 5 months, what was the one thing you missed the most that you really wanted to eat right away?

While I craved a nice Nebraska, corn-fed, T-bone steak (medium-rare), with a loaded baked potato, and a couple of glasses of Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet; I was treated to two pieces of wheat toast, with a bit of grape jelly as my first meal back on earth. Prepping for bed after an extremely long day, connected to an IV of anti-nausea meds, it would be all my stomach could take!

What can you tell us about your next book coming out this summer, It’s a Question of Space: An Ordinary Astronaut’s Answers to Some Extraordinary Questions (University of Nebraska Press, 2018)?

It’s a great book… targeted for young adults, but adults will enjoy it as well. It is the result of a social media platform called Quora.com, where folks from around the world may pose questions to “experts” (and sometimes non-experts!) seeking their knowledge. Replying to space-related themes, it seemed like a natural result to gather all of my answers into a single book. It will also serve as a wonderful reference for teachers.

Could you please give us an example of a particularly unusual or funny food-related question from the book? 

How do astronauts eat during a space walk? Do astronauts go without food for the duration of a space walk?

We don’t!

The American spacewalking suit, called the Extra-Vehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), only has a place for a small drink bag, which is filled with water. In order to combat hunger, astronauts try to eat a solid breakfast before donning their suit. This can prevent some issues, as many of us are so excited to “go outside” that our appetites are a bit suppressed. For me, it was a lot like when I played high school basketball. On game day, I was always a bit nervous as I wanted to play my absolute best. I would come home from school and eat two pieces of toast with butter. That was it. I’d be starving by the time the game was over! Same for me doing spacewalks.

ISS Expedition 26 Commander Oleg Kotov and I (crewmates during Expedition 15) float inside Node 2 during the STS-131 resupply mission.

I remember one of our ventures outside during our STS-131 mission on Discovery. Rick Mastracchio and I had completed our “walk”, which covered about 7-plus hours. I hadn’t eaten since I tried to choke down some peanut butter in a tortilla and a power bar (yuk!) that morning. After I doffed (took off) my suit and returned to the airlock after cleaning up and getting dressed, my former Expedition 15 crew mate Oleg Kotov —now the ISS Expedition 26 Commander— floated over to me with a freshly heated can of Russian lamb with vegetables and a spoon. He remembered my favorite meal from our 5-month mission in 2007. Now that’s “good expeditionary behavior!”

Keep lookin’ up!

~ from Quora.com/March 6, 2017

As a man of many talents, are you also a good cook?

My family would say I am not a great cook. However, that being said, I can grill a mighty-fine steak, and I’m not too bad with French toast either!



A IS FOR ASTRONAUT: Blasting Through the Alphabet
written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson
illustrated by Scott Brundage
published by Sleeping Bear Press, March 2018
Picture Book for ages 6-10, 32 pp.

♥️ Check out this cool interview at Celebrate Picture Books to learn what inspired Clay to be an astronaut and his best memory of being in space.

♥️ Visit Clayton Anderson’s Official Website (astroclay.com) for lots more: complete bio, STEAM education/speaking topics, videos, gallery, etc.



The publisher is generously donating a copy of A is for Astronaut for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Wednesday, June 6, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with “ASTRONAUT” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!



Thanks to all who entered the giveaway for Kate Young’s delicious literary cookbook. We are pleased to announce that the lucky winner is:



👏 👏 👏 *thunderous applause* 👏 👏 👏

Please send along your snail mail address to receive your book. We hope you enjoy cooking up something tasty very soon. 🙂


The lovely and talented Buffy Silverman is hosting the Roundup at Buffy’s Blog. Blast on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week.


This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!




♥️ More alphabetica here.


Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand just for you with love, shooting stars, and all that’s good in the universe.

*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2018 Clayton Anderson, illustrations © 2018 Scott Brundage, published by Sleeping Bear Press. All rights reserved.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

**Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

57 thoughts on “[author chat + giveaway] A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet by Astronaut Clayton Anderson and Scott Brundage

  1. Oh, my goodness…..this is an outstanding interview. I love ABC books…..but that book that’s coming out…my middle schoolers absolutely need that one (of course I’ll be reading it too!). Thanks for introducing us to one of our space explorers. I am really happy I read this before work and am sharing it with friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m looking forward to Clay’s next book too — he’s so generous with sharing all kinds of cool info — stuff you’d never imagine and so very interesting.


  2. I just saw a huge stack of The Little Library Cookbook this week at my favorite Indie, FYI! And thanks for this fun post/interview & review of this new ABC book, Jama. Being in space seems so mysterious, but Clayton seems to show it in simple and enjoyable terms, great for everyone to enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear your indie has a big stack of Kate’s books :). I agree — Clay is great at explaining and sharing info about space travel in an interesting, easy-to-understand manner.


    1. I find it fascinating too — one tends to associate space travel with those tubes filled with bland stuff. Things started out that way back in the 50’s — good to know the menu has vastly improved. Love the different ethnic foods offered.


  3. How fun that you got to interview an astronaut! I learned lots from your questions/his answers, and I think his book is one I need to add to my classroom library. I could be shelved with the ABC books, with the NF Space books, or with the Poetry!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A comment about toast and butter, maybe with jam: an astronaut needs to be sustained, so does a child or an adult. It’s OK when a person is sick, though. It was interesting to me that he commented on this. A late friend ate that every am with tea. Her a1c went up. She added an egg to the today and tea and a handful of nuts before going to bed. It helped out her numbers. It’s impossible to imagine an astronaut(s) not eating healthy even if it is out of bags!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clay shared lots of interesting tidbits — sounds like where food is concerned they were well taken care of. 🙂


  5. How cool that you got to interview an astronaut! That makes you a star, which we knew before. This looks like an abecedarian (I’ve always wanted to use that word, and now I have) with a lot of kid appeal.Thanks for the fun read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the word abecedarian too — and you’re right, this book makes learning fun and has lots of kid appeal. 🙂


  6. I love this interview. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an astronaut. Back then, there were no women astronauts, so that seemed like an impossible dream. Today, it is a reality! My granddaughter loves learning about space. Maybe she will become the astronaut in our family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love knowing that you once dreamed of being an astronaut, Linda, and that your granddaughter has inherited your love of learning about space. Yes, she may be the one!


  7. Thank you, Jama, for this unbelievably interesting post. I read through to the end only to find I’d won The Little Library Cookbook. For me, this is a doubly good post! I’ll send my snail mail to you with my thanks for the surprise, and the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hooray for Diane, the lucky winner! You will enjoy the book even if you don’t make a single recipe from it. Glad you enjoyed the interview. 🙂


  8. so neat you got to talk to an actual astronaut. very cool. sounds like a fun read for both the young and the young at heart

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Never occurred to me I’d get to interview an astronaut for this blog — wonders never cease. Good to know there is good food in space!


    1. He’s a dream interviewee — good, detailed answers. See more at his FB page, where he posts questions and answers every week. Also you can find more of his answers at Quora.com.


  9. So interesting! I loved reading this interview, Jama—will be forwarding to my outer space-loving family. Where was this PB when Dylan was little? (Now he’s heading off to Florida Tech for a degree in Aerospace Engineering.) Looking forward to Chad’s summer book release!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You have educated those of us who only knew about astronaut ice cream! And none of these other very interesting space-food facts.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com


    1. I read somewhere that they don’t actually eat astronaut ice cream in space — either they never did, or discontinued doing so.


  11. I loved this post!!! So many of us who grew up with the space program have been curious about just these things. Good to know they eat in style in space. I love the illustrations in the book and the photographs are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Adding a “fascinating” to this fascinated chorus of responses! Thanks to both of you for sharing all. It’s terrific that Clayton Anderson has found avenues to connect to eager young minds, and to bring new ones “on board.” :0)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes — I imagine kids get really excited to meet him and hear him speak. Great that he’s writing for kids now.


  13. Great post Jama! I love your lead painting of the beach party. Looks like Mr. Rabbit is mixing himself a gin martini 🙂 Also what a terrific book, with such enchanting illustrations, especially the cover; now I have to get a copy for my little niece and nephew (grands).

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for sharing the book and interview. While the alphabet book looks delightful, the new book sounds awesome, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. That was an excellent interview . I liked hearing about how he ate in space and what he had to go through after coming back to our planet. Wow. Please include me for a chance for the giveaway!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. What a great interview! When we went to see Ally Carter at an indie bookstore last month, Clayton Anderson was there the same night, on the other side of the store. We saw a young woman with her 5-year-old — they were there for both authors. After getting a book signed by Anderson for her little girl, the mom excitedly joined the Ally Carter group. What a fun double-header for them!

    Liked by 2 people

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